Battle for the bottom: Coyotes, Sabres vying with others for best lottery odds

Mar 20, 2018, 12:36 PM | Updated: Mar 21, 2018, 7:25 am
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta (32) celebrates a win against the Calgary Flames with cente...
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta (32) celebrates a win against the Calgary Flames with center Christian Dvorak (18) as time expires in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, March 19, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Flames 5-2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes departed Tuesday on a six-game road trip.

With just 10 games left in its season, Arizona is in 29th place in the NHL standings, giving it the third best odds of landing the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and presumably using that to select Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.

The Coyotes aren’t alone in their hopes of landing the No. 1 overall pick, however. The team they face on Tuesday at KeyBank Center, the Buffalo Sabres, is one of two teams below them in the standings and a few other teams are doing noteworthy work in their efforts to slide to the bottom of the NHL.

There is no guarantee that finishing last will land the No. 1 pick.

Last year’s lottery was a travesty of the draft process. New Jersey jumped from the fourth worst record to the No. 1 pick, Philadelphia jumped from the 12th worst record to the No. 2 pick and Dallas jumped from the seventh worst record to the No. 3 pick.

That’s right, the teams with the three worst records in the league last season — Colorado, Vancouver and Arizona — picked fourth, fifth and seventh (the Coyotes traded this pick), while the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who spent a reported $500 million just to join the league, got the sixth pick.

The NHL seems content not to fix its problematic lottery so even if the Coyotes finish with the worst record in the NHL, they’ll only have an 18 percent chance of landing the top pick.

There appear to be just six teams with a legitimate chance of finishing with the league’s worst record. Here’s a look at those six teams, their remaining schedules and tanking rating, which measures effort (or more appropriately, lack thereof).

We’ve also included the NHL Draft Lottery odds for all teams currently out of the playoff picture, courtesy of the awesome site,


Points: 65

Remaining games: 9

Road (4): at Toronto, at Montreal, at Buffalo, at Columbus

Home (5): Washington, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Montreal, NY Islanders

Remaining strength of schedule league rank: 31st

Past 10: 1-8-1

Tanking ranking: 2nd

Predicted finish: 28th. Detroit had lost 10 in a row before a win over the Flyers on Tuesday. Ten! C’mon! The Wings are barely trying. It would be a dogfight with Vancouver for the bottom rung, but Detroit has the easiest remaining schedule, including four games against teams on this list and it has too far to fall.


Points: 64

Remaining games: 9

Road (5): at Pittsburgh, at Buffalo, at Pittsburgh, at Detroit, at Toronto

Home (4): Washington, Detroit, New Jersey, Winnipeg

Remaining strength of schedule league rank: 15th

Past 10: 2-6-2

Tanking ranking: 3rd

Predicted finish: 27th. The Canadiens play the second toughest schedule of this group so there is opportunity to slide, but the Habs have too far to fall. If only they had started this process a little sooner.


Points: 63

Remaining games: 10

Road (5): at Carolina, at Detroit, at Buffalo, at Pittsburgh, at Boston

Home (5): Edmonton, Carolina, NY Islanders, Florida, Winnipeg

Remaining strength of schedule league rank: 29th

Past 10: 5-4-1

Tanking ranking: 5th

Predicted finish: 26th. Ottawa is playing .500 hockey lately. Clearly, Erik Karlsson did not get the tanking memo Eugene Melnyk sent out, but then, it doesn’t sound like Melnyk and Karlsson are doing much communicating these days.


Points: 59

Remaining games: 10

Road (8): at Buffalo, at Carolina, at Florida, at Tampa Bay, at Vegas, at Los Angeles, at Calgary, at Vancouver

Home (2): St. Louis, Anaheim

Remaining strength of schedule league rank: 20th

Past 10: 6-3-1

Tanking ranking: 6th

Predicted finish: 29th. The Coyotes have the worst ratio of road-to-home games and they are tied for the fewest road wins in the NHL at nine. Arizona is playing too well, however, to expect it to remain at the bottom of the standings, even if defenseman Jason Demers is out for the rest of the season. Since Feb. 8, the Coyotes are 12-5-2. Besides, Valley teams never win lotteries.


Points: 59

Remaining games: 9

Road (4): at Chicago, at St. Louis, at Dallas, at Edmonton

Home (5): Anaheim, Edmonton, Columbus, Vegas, Arizona

Remaining strength of schedule league rank: 19

Past 10: 1-7-2

Tanking ranking: 1st

Predicted finish: 31st. The Canucks have lost seven in a row and 10 of their past 12. They were shut out three times and have six goals in the seven-game skid. Postmedia beat writer Ben Kuzma said the wind went out of the Canucks’ sails when they lost Calder Trophy candidate Brock Boeser for the season. It feels more life the life went out of their lungs. So much for the leadership of the Sedins …


Points: 58

Remaining games: 10

Road (6): at NY Rangers, at Toronto, at Nashville, at Toronto, at Tampa Bay, at Florida

Home (4): Arizona, Montreal, Detroit, Ottawa

Remaining strength of schedule league rank: 11

Past 10: 5-4-1

Tanking ranking: 4th

Predicted finish: 30th. The Sabres’ home games are winnable; the road games not so much. At least Buffalo is trying this time around, unlike in 2015 when they were trading away any goalie who dared to win a game. They also have Jack Eichel back in the lineup after a five-week absence due to a high-ankle sprain. That should equal some wins.

Coyotes at Sabres

When: 4 p.m., Wednesday
Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Radio: ESPN 620 AM
Records: Sabres — 23-37-12. Coyotes — 24-37-11.
Season series: Sabres lead 1-0

Injury report: Sabres — D Zemgus Girgensons (undisclosed) is day to day. F Jacob Josefson (lower body) is week-to-week. F Kyle Criscuolo (upper body), D Jake McCabe (shoulder) and D Zach Bogosian (lower body) are out for the season. Coyotes — F Laurent Dauphin (lower body) is out indefinitely. D Jason Demers (upper body) is out the rest of the season, the team announced Tuesday.

Sabres scouting report: Buffalo is in last place in the NHL standings, one point behind the Coyotes, making this an intriguing game for the NHL Draft Lottery. … C Jack Eichel leads the team with 22 goals and 54 points despite playing just 57 games.

Coyotes scouting report: Coach Rick Tocchet is expected to rejoin the team in Buffalo after attending his mother’s funeral outside Toronto. … F Clayton Keller has 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists), one shy of Peter Mueller’s Coyotes rookie record set in 2007-08. Keller needs two goals to tie Mueller’s Coyotes rookie record of 22, and one assist to tie Domi’s rookie record of 34 set in 2015-16. … The Coyotes recalled C Dylan Strome and D Trevor Murphy from Tucson of the AHL. They joined the team on its trip.

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Battle for the bottom: Coyotes, Sabres vying with others for best lottery odds